Big Data Baby-Making: Celmatix and Genetic Profiteering in the IVF Industry

Authors: Anna Feigenbaum*, Bournemouth University
Topics: Gender, Medical and Health Geography, Social Geography
Keywords: digital geographies, gender and sexuality, reproductive geographies, health geographies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Washington 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Each year new methods for aiding assisted reproduction are developed, from more advanced IVF screening tests to better hormone stimulators. This paper introduces the rise of big data and predictive analytics in this industry, looking at how large batches of data on treatments, previous research and detailed medical histories are being used to promise better baby-making.

Founded in 2009, Celmatix is the leading company in this burgeoning area. It’s founder, Dr. Beim believes that being able to more accurately analyze success rates of treatment cycles can restore people’s faith in doctor’s recommendations for continued, pricey treatments. And venture capitalists agree. Today, tech industry investors are attending fertility expos and conferences around the world looking for the next best app. In 2017, Celmatix entered a partnership with the genetic ancestry company 23andMe, famous for its mail-in spit swabs that make people rethink their ethnicity. A press release for this partnership celebrated what private sector fertility funding can do “at a time when government budgets for women’s health research are at a crucial low.”

This paper explores the assemblages of this genetic profiteering, looking at the companies, laboratories and entrepreneurs involved in turning poor support for public health care into start-up opportunities. Creating these profitable new markets, I argue that such ventures reify notions of gender and sex, promote causal understandings of genetics that carry racialised and colonial imaginaries into a techno-future, and limit understanding of other potential kinships – all under the auspices of using big data to improve baby-making.

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